Last week my brilliant blogger friend Bad Playdate and I did this fun project: We had a playdate, and then on our respective blogs shared the judgements we passed on various mommy war topics: SAHMs, eating habits, exposing kids to current events, swearing. I had fun with the project, but was surprised by how much hype it got, including an interview on the clever podcast Dadsater (listen below). People were so surprised that we each voiced our criticisms of each other AND are still friends. Which surprised me. Others decried the posts as a media stunt, which surprised me even more. Because we have blogs. Which is media. So of course it was a media stunt, you morons.
All this made me think critically about the prevalent message of our time: Don’t judge other moms. Don’t judge other women. Don’t judge others. I say: Give me a break. I judge others all the time, and you do, too. In fact, I urge you to own your urge to judge. Just accept it as normal and healthy! Judgement keeps us all in line with societal standards — and helps us challenge standards that need to change. Asking others and yourself not to judge is like asking you not to fall in love or feel sad — keep it in long enough and you might do something crazy. Like share your judgement passive aggressively. Which happens all the time. Especially among moms.
I say: Embrace your judgements. Assume everyone else judges everyone else (because they do). Then share. Share your observations and opinions with their object. Listen as they explain their behavior — or confess to oblivion. Ask others to share their judgements of you. Listen with an open heart and mind. It might hurt, but that is part of the process. This exercise will liberate your shame for thinking poorly of other people who you may care about. Sharing also brings you closer to the other person — because you are revealing the truth. Truth opens up space for vulnerability and forgiveness — of each other and yourself. Everyone is liberated. And all of this creates space for empathy — which is what you were supposed to feel instead of judgement in the first place.
At the end of our bad playdate, Bad Playdate and I chatted honestly about our observations (read: judgement) of one another. This includes that I swear in front of my kids. Which I do. But since so few people are open about their thoughts, no one ever brought to attention that this might offend other parents. Which, apparently, it does. Bad Playdate’s words stung, but I needed to hear them. I may or may not choose to change my behavior, but at least I’m doing so from a place of awareness — not a plastic bubble created by the no-judgement edict. Even more powerful is that I am free from this bubble, and Bad Playdate is, too. I find that I’m more empathetic towards her after hearing her take on things. I am kinder to myself for my own flaws as a parent. We’re closer friends for it. And we got some nice media attention, too.
So I challenge you. Start small, with someone you love and who loves you back. Better yet if actually like this person. Ask them to be part of a new exercise designed to bring you closer and grow as people. Ask them what bugs them about you. Ask if you can share in kind. Start small — no tackling giant perceived personality flaws. Then take not how you feel after the exercise – about your friend and yourself. Share your experience here in the comments.
Listen to Badplaydate and me go of about our playdate and judging aloud:
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.